AIM Bots
April 11, 2002

Came across something interesting: An AIM-based (AOL Instant Messenger) interactive agent called SmarterChild. It's just like any other buddy, but a) it's not human and b) you can ask it short questions to get info on things like weather, movies, news, stock quote, games and so on. You can even ask it for translations (though it's not great), in the form of "translate I love you from english to french".

I haven't had this much fun with text based interaction with a machine since the early days of text base adventure games.

I posted my discovery to SIGIA-L and received a few comments from Matt Jones who pointed me in the direction of a review of SmarterChild and thoughts on conversational interfaces by Matt Webb:

More stuff about Interactive Conversation Interfaces:

The Jack Principle
The art of conversation

One of the interesting aspects of text-based bots is that they always provided the perception that there is more depth that may actually be present. There is no direct indication from the outset what the limitations or boundaries are to the responses it may provide. This was a well know fact that was exploited very well by those text-only adventure games that had enough randomness to its responses and pathes to provide the perception that you are actually exploring a vast landscape.

We still had days, sometimes even months of fun, didn't we?